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Greek sprinters hearing set for June - lawyer

Written by: Staff
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ATHENS, March 21 (Reuters) Two Greek sprinters facing a two-year ban for doping violations will have their final hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in June, their lawyer said today.

British-based lawyer Gregory Ioannidis said Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou were ready to race even before the hearing takes place between June 26 and 30. A decision should be announced two to three months after that.

''So far the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has miserably failed to prove either of the charges. We believe they are unsubstantiated. I have said I feel confident and optimistic,'' Ioannidis told Reuters.

''My clients are ready to race now. Ready as ever.'' Kenteris and Thanou are accused of missing three doping tests, including one on the eve of 2004 Olympics. This forced them to withdraw from the Athens Games days before they were scheduled to race in front of a sell-out home crowd.

Kenteris, 200 metres gold medallist at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and Thanou, who won silver in the 100 at those Games, were acquitted by a Greek athletics disciplinary commission last March, a decision the IAAF decided to appeal.

The athletes have not raced since before the Athens Games and have been provisionally suspended since December 15, 2004.

Their case has been further delayed by the resignation of a CAS arbitrator in February, days before the final hearing was due to take place, after he was accused of a conflict of interest by the athletes's lawyers.

HARSH WORDS Ioannidis had harsh words for the IAAF for the way Kenteris and Thanou had been treated.

''Has anyone ever wondered why the prosecuting authorities, almost two years on, are still unable to prove the case against my clients?'' he said.

''This not only damaged the sport authorities' credibility but it also showed the mess in the regulatory framework and the inequality in this application.'' He also said comments by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chief Dick Pound that he expected it to be found that a doping infringement had occurred, violated the athletes' rights.

''WADA is not a party in the proceedings, although comments from within the organisation indicating the guilt of my clients and showing certainty as to the outcome of the case have seriously violated the athletes' rights,'' Ioannidis said.

The pair deny avoiding the test inside the Olympic village in August 2004 and that a motorcycle accident they suffered -- ending them to hospital for four days -- was not faked.

They face separate charges in Greece over the alleged motorcycle crash. A prosecutor last November charged them and their former coach Christos Tzekos with faking the crash to avoid the dope test, and perjury.

REUTERS PDS PC2132

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